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Posts Tagged ‘Mercury Lounge’

(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

It’s obvious, but I’ll write it anyway: What I hear is not what you hear. My ears are different than yours. Recently, I’ve felt a small pressurized balloon squeeze against my right cochlea. I pinch my nose and blow out through my ears to clear the tubes. I get a pop, crackle and then nothing. It stays the same. So, what I’m about to tell you is what I heard.

Live, Lotus Plaza is dense. It doesn’t necessarily follow from the latest album, Spooky Action at a Distance. On it, Lockett Pundt, guitarist for Deerhunter and project manager of Lotus Plaza, balances vocal melodies and guitar work. The result is a somewhat heavy, often breezy set of songs, kissing cousins with Real Estate’s surf-rock update. That was not so much the case live. From the wailing guitar bends on show-opener “White Galactic One” onward, the four-man stage crew supporting Lotus Plaza buried Pundt’s vocals in a downpour of instrumentation. Gone was the light touch that gave Spooky Action at a Distance a summer-soaked feel—in its place was a broad sonic singularity.

A blanket of sound covered the audience by the time the band got to “Strangers.” I felt reverberations at the edge of my skin and on the back of my head. And while a machine-gun cadence of drums periodically peaked out of the mix, the music echoed the lighting: a soft red glow, which left the room mostly dark but with a hint of visibility. My mind wandered to visions of fields and ocean, which seemed like the point. If shoegaze, a working title for Lotus Plaza’s brand of music, is taken literally, you look down and get lost in your thoughts and the floor. You’re locked into a rhythm, so your head starts to bob. It is loud, hypnotic music for daydreamers. And it sounded good to me.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

The guys in Unknown Mortal Orchestra aren’t a chatty bunch: They said more on Twitter before the show than during their set last night at Mercury Lounge. Save for a couple “thanks” and a promo for another show, it was all business. And for UMO, business is orienting dense psychedelic rock for an authentic live experience—recreating the highly effected sounds on their first and only album, Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It takes work, but they’ve intently dedicated themselves to the task.

Lead singer Ruban Nielson is at the center of the three-piece band. His demos spawned UMO. And, live, his noise making is noticeably the most captivating element. Although it was nearly impossible to parse his actual singing voice from swaths of feedback and echo, it was fun to get lost in the sound. The lyrics usually complemented the melody, so distinguishing the verses to “Ffunny Ffrends” wasn’t necessary to enjoy the song’s giddy feeling. It was also in the moments when things felt like they’d fall apart—the drums and bass slipping in and out of time signature on “Strangers Are Strange” and “Thought Ballune”—when the band seemed most comfortable.

For the most part, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s songs hit somewhere in between Beatles psychedelia and Hendrix rock. It is the music of a bygone era, but classic-rock revivalism is on the rise. As witnessed by the attendance of Joseph D’Agostino and Jonny Rogoff, the lead singer of Cymbals Eat Guitars and the drummer for Yuck, respectively. They, too, came to support the community: one that speaks quietly and carries loud guitars.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

We didn’t know what to expect. How could we? Last night was New Build’s first show in the US. But the facts were promising: assorted members of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem playing in a side project at Mercury Lounge, the venue to catch acts with potential. If there was a time to see them, it was now. But what were we to see? The first surprise of the night came in the form of Reverend John Wilkins, a head-scratching yet excellent opener. New Build frontman Al Doyle later revealed the choice was as much about picking someone he wanted to hear as it was about proper billing. Regardless, Wilkins’s charismatic take on blues and gospel endeared him to the crowd and raised the collective mood. By the end of his set, a request for “foot stomping and hand clapping” seemed unnecessary because we were doing it all along.

Between sets it was quiet—not silent, but without house music playing in the background, the transition felt abrupt. The seven touring members of New Build eventually walked onstage to clusters of applause. Doyle, at first visibly nervous, made a passing remark about the peculiar entrance. The awkwardness hung in the air briefly, and then disappeared completely as the band’s percussionists began to play. Over the course of an hour-long set, New Build filled the cozy room with layers of rhythm and sonic texture.

At times, the sound felt like drinking a thick shake through a narrow straw: delicious yet incrementally satisfying. But New Build’s forthcoming album is a basket of treats. The first single, “Do You Not Feel Loved,” pulsed and swelled with calculated intent for the dance floor, while “Medication” was as Doyle described it, “a short poppy number.” The variety of sounds seemed natural for a band finding its footing. These are seasoned musicians, but this is new and a risk. Thankfully, they were as good as their lineage suggested. Truthfully, they were better. The bar is set high for concerts this year.


Photo courtesy of Mina K

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

New is exciting. It breaks from routine and offers something different. When it comes to music, eager listeners latch onto new artists. This community supports potential, especially young talent. And on Tuesday night, a sold-out crowd poured into Mercury Lounge to discover Youth Lagoon. Trevor Powers, the band’s 22-year-old principal, speaks like he sings: softly and fragilely. Halfway through the set, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to visit New York City. Behind a keyboard, he, along with friend and touring guitarist Logan Hyde, played in near darkness, with only a dim red lightbulb to light their faces.

While Powers’ reverb-saturated vocals gave the illusion of being in a cave, dream-pop landscapes enveloped the room and a backing track supplied heft and driving purpose to wandering melodies. Performed live, songs from the debut full-length, The Year of Hibernation, received the acoustic space they deserve. Earnest songwriting isn’t new, and although I overheard an observer call Powers “an infantile Dylan,” he hardly fits the description. Excitement excuses genuine but misguided praise, and Youth Lagoon is for the moment.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

The War on Drugs is a losing battle. People will get high if they so desire. No government enforcement can stop production, dispersal and use. It’s the classic “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Much in a similar vein, rock and roll music persists, despite years of push back and upheaval. Its conduit, the electric guitar, continues to be a tool for exploration and its rhythms maintain their allure. So what better name for a rock band that channels vitality than the War on Drugs.

Bringing their curious name and burgeoning reputation, the War on Drugs played to a sold-out crowd on Saturday night at Mercury Lounge. Credit must be given to the group’s new album, Slave Ambient, released last week and receiving a ton of good press. Many in the audience appeared to know the material, which took up the bulk of the set list.

Their sound, distinctly rooted in the kind of Americana practiced and perfected by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, filled the venue, reverberating and echoing off the walls. From the show opener “Best Night” to the wonderfully anthemic “Come to the City,” the songs sounded fuller, deeper and more rhythmic than the studio versions. Guitarist and vocalist Adam Granduciel’s talent showed with his unfaltering delivery. And when he graciously noted that Mercury Lounge is his favorite venue to play in all of New York City, it felt genuine. No need to pander when you’re unstoppable.

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Afternoon Playtonics,

For those of you who don’t know, in addition to writing semi-daily for Playtonic Dialogues, I am also a contributing photographer and writer for The Bowery Presents The House List. Since moving to New York, I have written reviews for Animal Collective and Arcade Fire, as well as many other concerts produced at all New York venues currently booked by The Bowery Presents, including the Mercury Lounge, the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Terminal 5, the Brooklyn Bowl, and more… This month I will be contributing reviews for the following shows:

8/2: Wet Hot American Summer @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

8/11: Cut Copy @ Prospect Park          

8/20: the War on Drugs @ Mercury Lounge           

8/23: Live Trilogy Mixtape Jam @ Mercury Lounge

8/26: Sun Araw @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Look out for my reviews and photos which will be on The Bowery Presents The House List as well as this site.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece, slightly edited, is on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here. Also, it is mentioned in Brooklyn Vegan’s write-up)

Midway through J Mascis’ set, the seasoned headliner invited Kurt Vile, opener and contributor to the former’s most recent acoustic album, Several Shades of Why, to accompany on the song “Make it Right.” As they shared the stage, a sense of mutual respect pervaded the room. Earlier, Vile, along with his touring band, the Violators, tore through his collection of guitar-based indie rock, dividing his focus between songs from earlier albums and his new one,Smoke Ring for My Halo“Hunchback,” a selection from Childish Prodigy, brought muscle, showcasing Vile and the Violators bent for deeply affected grooves. But armed with a simple, elegant acoustic guitar, Vile also found balance on Smoke Ring for My Halo’s “Jesus Fever”and “Ghost Town,” deftly matching his voice and guitar with the band’s tremendous sound.

Mascis, best known as the guitarist, singer and songwriter of Dinosaur Jr., followed Vile’s lead, intertwining his band’s recent work with quieter, introspective songs from Several Shades of Why. From a seated position, he occasionally glanced at a music stand holding a lyric book, but, most often, known guitar riffs took precedence over words. The live performance combined elements of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound, grungy distortion and piercing solos, parsed out of Several Shades of Why. But, with Vile’s help, Mascis colored the solo work, exploring the depths of each other’s songwriting and talent.

Additional pictures I took from the show after the jump: (more…)

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